Pitta could be designated to return, Harbaugh on receivers and roster

Ravens coach John Harbaugh covered a number of topics when meeting with the media Friday, only hours after the team made 12 roster moves.

For one, he revealed that Gino Gradkowski has won the starting job at center, but the team thinks highly of A.Q. Shipley. He also told reporters that James Ihedigbo will start at strong safety as he has throughout the preseason, but first-round pick Matt Elam will play a lot.

Harbaugh said the team could add a cornerback since it has just four left on the roster, and named the recently cut Chris Johnson as an option to be re-signed.

The bigger news, however, was about injured tight end Dennis Pitta and the wide receiver situation.

After Pitta dislocated his hip early in training camp, the Ravens said he’d miss the entire season. But more and more time passed without them placing Pitta on season-ending injured reserve. Now it appears that Baltimore is seriously considering using its one injured reserve/designated to return spot to keep the door open for Pitta in 2013.

That designation was new to the league last season and allows a team to choose one player per year who could come back after sitting out at least six weeks.

“I think early next week, Tuesday or Wednesday, we have to make that decision, and I would say things are progressing favorably toward that,” Harbaugh told reporters “He’s doing a really good job. I saw him today, and he spent some time with Steve Bisciotti today, too. So, he’s working really hard, and he’s had no setbacks, and there’s optimism there.”

Asked whether the possibility of future injuries to key players would dissuade the Ravens from using the designation on Pitta, Harbaugh said it does not.

“You’ve got to weigh that, but you can’t predict and deal in hypotheticals,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Dennis is a great player, in our opinion, and this is an opportunity that seems like it might make sense for him.”

Harbaugh also talked about the situation at wide receiver, which the Ravens have yet to address.

The Ravens still have eight receivers on the roster after cutting none today. Harbaugh said the injury statuses of LaQuan Williams and Deonte Thompson are affecting the team’s decisions. But Harbaugh also said it’s within reason that the Ravens keep all eight, even if that limits the team at other positions.

At the very least, Harbaugh gave the indication that rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette, perhaps the Ravens’ two most impressive wideouts this preseason, have done enough to make the team.

“Marlon and Aaron have played really well, especially for rookies. Those guys - they don’t feel like rookies out there,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Marlon has had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career. Both of those things are showing up in camp.

“I would anticipate that those two guys will be a factor here going forward. How much they’ll play early, or how much they’ll be a part of the game plan and those kinds of things are really, really hard to say. But they’ve put themselves in the mix. We’ll make a final decision here (Saturday), but it looks good for those two guys.”